Facile interpretations of events in Burkina Faso

Going around a lot is that everybody respects constitutions now, in Africa.

The first lesson and positive element brought to light by the changes in Burkina Faso is the general recognition and respect including by presidents of the constitution.

via Africa’s Democratic Transitions Under Construction: Some Lessons from Burkina Faso.

But some thought suggests that is too facile.  The problem in Burkina Faso is/was that nobody respected the constitution.  President Compaoré’s legislative majority amended the constitution in 2012 to have a Senate.  Elections were held. Popular protests arose.  The Senate was never implemented.  Nobody seemed to care much that the constitution now was missing a major institution.  Then in October 2014 when President Compaoré sought to change the constitution again through his legislative majority, to change the term limits (in some sense a perfectly constitutional move), protesters unconstitutionally destroyed the National Assembly, and army officers unconstitutionally took power.  So where is the great respect for the constitution?

People are respecting the different interpretations they have of their constitutions, while agreeing to ignore their constitutions when nobody respects what the constitution says.  Constitutions of convenience are probably not the best foundation for durable democracy.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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